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List of Documents and Brief Background Information

Whilst leaders maintained generally cordial relations, there were tensions between the three countries, especially during the early part of John Curtin’s prime ministership.

• Birthday wishes from John Curtin to Franklin D Roosevelt, 30 January 1942.
• Telegram from Minister for Foreign Affairs, H V Evatt, to British High Commissioner, S M Bruce, 23 March 1942.

Curtin’s article, 'The Task Ahead', was poorly received by both Roosevelt and Churchill and Roosevelt believed it indicated panic and disloyalty. However, Curtin’s ‘turn to America’ was for pragmatic reasons.

• ‘The Task Ahead’ by John Curtin. The Herald 27 December 1941.
• Letter from Churchill to Curtin, 29 December 1941.
• Memo from Churchill to Lord Privy Seal and Dominions Secretary [nd].

When news of the surrender in Singapore came through, Curtin sent a telegram on 17 February 1942 asking for the 6th and 7th Divisions to be returned to Australia and also for the return of the 9th Division‘at an early date’. That same day Curtin convened the Full Cabinet to authorise the War Cabinet to organise for ‘complete mobilisation...of all resources, human and material’ to ensure the defence of Australia. (JCPML00137/1/2)

• Cablegram 17 February 1942 from Curtin to Churchill.

On 19 February, the day of the first bombing raid on Darwin, Churchill asked for the leading division of the returning Australian forces to be diverted to Burma. President Roosevelt, and Australia’s representatives in London, Page and Bruce, as well as Opposition members Menzies and Spender in Canberra, supported the British request urging the Curtin Government to allow those members of the 7th Division already at sea to be diverted for the defence of Burma. Standing against this strong opposition, however, Curtin firmly refused the diversion.

• Cablegram Curtin to Churchill, 19 February 1942.
• Cablegram from Sir Earle Page, Special Representative in the UK, to Curtin, 19 February 1942.
• Cablegram from UK Dominions Office to Curtin, 21 February 1942.
• Cablegram from Richard Casey, US Minister, to Curtin, 21 February 1942.

When Curtin learned on the afternoon of 22 February that Churchill had ‘temporarily’ diverted the convoy his response was swift and decisive, forcing Churchill to give way and the convoy to sail on to Australia.

• Cablegram form Churchill to Curtin, 22 February 1942.
• Cablegram from Curtin to Churchill, 23 February 1942.

Until the 1943 election Curtin had rejected all proposals that he should travel overseas, including those from President Roosevelt urging him to visit Washington. In 1944 he travelled to the United States, Great Britain and Canada.

• Letter from Roosevelt to Curtin inviting him to visit, 3 January 1944.
• Letter from Curtin to Roosevelt, responding to the invitation to visit, 2 February 1944.
• Telegrams between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt regarding the Curtins’ visit in April 1944.

Documents from the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London, May 1944.

• Agenda for Conference of Dominion Prime Ministers, May 1944.
• Minutes of Staff Conference for the British War Cabinet Chiefs of Staff Committee, May 1944.
• Note from Churchill to Curtin, 25 May 1944.

Curtin wrote regular reports for the Acting Prime Minister, Frank Forde, whilst he was in attendance at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference. In this example Curtin outlines discussion on international relations following a postwar settlement.

• Cablegram report from Curtin to Forde, 16 May 1944

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